Tuesday, 30 November 2010

Message to Ed Miliband MP

Message from the occupiers of Newcastle University to Ed Miliband MP:

We are occupying the fine art building of Newcastle University in protest against the savage cuts which the government is proposing to make against higher education, as well as the imposition of tuition fees of £9,000 per year which will cause soaring student debt. Furthermore, we are against the withdrawal of Education Maintenance Allowance, which will harm to poorest FE students the most.

These cuts have nothing to do with economic ‘good sense’ and everything to do with an ideological dismantling of the welfare state. Students, as well as other public service users, are being made to pay for an economic crisis not of our making. We will not take it lying down. The protests that have happened across the country in recent weeks are a flavour of things to come.

 We call on you to do everything in your power as leader of the Labour Party to oppose these cuts and fee rises and to support the student movement, which has taken the lead in resisting them. These sentiments should be made public including a public statement of support for the days of action that are happening today and in coming days.

Furthermore, we urge you to recognise your own party’s role in introducing tuition fees in the first place, and to start a debate in your party about the future funding of universities, invoking the ideal that education is a right.

The students’ struggle to save our education is part of a wider struggle for public services and we call on you to support these struggles too and to completely reject the idea that cuts to public services are necessary.
From,

The Occupiers of Newcastle University

'Protests and occupations will continue, with or without the NUS.' Guardian article from a member of the occupation

One of the occupiers at Newcastle was asked to write a piece for the Guardian on our occupation's response to Aaron Porter's (NUS) newly declared support for direct action.

Rowan's piece is here http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/2010/nov/30/student-protests-aaron-porter-university-occupations?showallcomments=true#comment-fold and she'd especially welcome any comments in support of Sociology! She hadn't realised her being a Sociology undergraduate would get up so many peoples noses...

Statement on today's National Day of Action

We would like to thank the thousand peaceful protesters who joined us on the streets of Newcastle today in a demonstration against the proposed cuts to higher education. It was positive to see so many young people coming out to campaign for a better future. It has been our aim since we occupied the Fine Art building at Newcastle University that we are friendly, proactive and peaceful. We have a set of ground rules, which everyone is expected to follow, setting out how we conduct ourselves to each other and the space which we inhabit. 

Free education for all. Education for educations sake.

Photos of the Second National Day of Action by Steven Lee




See the rest of the pictures HERE

PRESS RELEASE - SECOND DAY OF ACTION (DAY 7)

In the seventh day of occupation we have seen a successful demonstration through Newcastle city centre that was entirely peaceful. We wish to thank and applaud the Northumbrian Police for its cooperation with organizing this demonstration However, it is apparent that other police forces around the country have acted inappropriately and violently. We deplore these actions and believe that these are the cause of the violence seen at previous demonstrations.

Newcastle Occupation has decided to release 3 additional demands of our university due to the success of our occupation and today’s demonstration. These demands are in line with our stated goals that the University should oppose education cuts and tuition fee rises but also demand changes to our University structure so that our University echoes the feelings of the student body.

Our 3 additional demands:

That all asylum seekers wishing to study at Newcastle University are treated as home students following the example set by London Metropolitan and Manchester Universities

Greater student representation in University management, thus we demand ten Newcastle students are involved with running our University, each with a vote on senate or council. In addition, we demand that students are included in the Vice Chancellor’s meetings with academics concerning fees and cuts, due to take place in the coming weeks.

We demand that the University provides a large lecture theatre for a community anti-cuts coordinating assembly to take place weekly.

New Demands

In addition to our already stated demands we release the following statement.



After 7 days in Occupation, sharing our knowledge and building for today’s second national day of action we have agree on a set of additional demands of our University. These demands are in line with our stated goals that the University should oppose education cuts and tuition fee rises but also demand changes to our University structure so that our University echoes the feelings of the student body.

We demand:

  • That all asylum seekers wishing to study at Newcastle University are treated as home students following the example set by London Metropolitan and ManchesterUniversities

  • Greater student representation in University management, thus we demand ten Newcastle students are involved with running our University, each with a vote on senate or council. In addition, that students are included in the Vice Chancellor’s meetings with academics concerning fees and cuts, due to take place in the coming weeks.

  • We demand that the University provides a large lecture theatre for a community anti-cuts coordinating assembly to take place weekly.

Day of Action: Free Education Strikes Back

Tomorrow promises to be the most amazing day. We can't wait to see all the 6th Form and University students protesting to defend education. Today has been such a special day for the occupation. The lecture theatre was heaving all day. Full of lecturers keen to impart their knowledge freed of the rules and social construct University life brings them.


Tomorrow thousands of students will protest again, but it will not be the last protest. We will continue to campaign, organise and protest in the name of defending education.


We have not organised this protest, many different groups have come together to take part, we have simply got involved, throwing ourselves into providing a functioning, vibrant, alternative space. While at the same time we demand that our University denounces the Government's plans.


Today we witnessed the power of a truly free education. Tomorrow we fight to defend it.


Newcastle Occupation

Monday, 29 November 2010

3 Charges

This afternoon, Peter Hopkins of the School of Geography, Politics and Sociology chose to deliver one of his weekly lectures in the Fine Arts lecture theatre, and gave a great lecture on 'Young people, education and politics'.
Combining contradictions in the Browne Review with ideological bias and social theory of youth and young people, Peter outlined '3 charges' - a succinct analysis of the economic, social and political dimensions of the current situation:

1 A charge against education as a common good
    
The privatisation and commodification of education - underpinned by a belief in individualism and neo-liberalism.

2 A charge against young people
    Continuing marginalisation and stigmatization of youth - and a dis-belief in the agency, power and potential of youth to unite, fight and organise.

3 The charge to politically engage, protest and resist
    The importance of political protest, engagement and 'Conscientization: learning to percieve social, political and economic contradictions, and to take action against the oppressive elements of reality' (Friere 1970).

The lecture concluded with a message of support and solidarity:

KEEP GOING!
RESIST
CHALLENGE
QUESTION
PROTEST
ENGAGE
BE POLITICAL
ACT NOW! 
  
Peter, thank you for a great lecture, and for your ongoing support. We hope to see you back again soon!

The Occupation.

 

PRESS RELEASE - Day 6 (Preparation for the Second Day of Action)

Today students at the Newcastle University Occupation were elated by a message of support and solidarity from Noam Chomsky, the American political activist and famed linguist. A further message of support has been received from Lee Hall, the screenwriter of Billy Elliot who said that we are “completely right to contest both the fees and the catastrophic cuts to teaching”.

The peaceful occupation has continued into its sixth successful day and has seen timetabled lectures continuing along side alternative lectures, which have been planned by the Occupation.

The national Second Day of Action on Tuesday has been planned in Newcastle by a number of groups working in cooperation. Student representatives from local sixth forms and FE colleges have been facilitated by the Occupation by allowing them to discuss, debate and organize for the day of peaceful protest. Newcastle Occupation is very pleased to be able to host these events as it allows students an open, tolerant and welcoming forum for people to express their ideas and opinions.

Northumbria University Students Union has announced today that it will be providing stewards for the demonstration tomorrow, which we are sure will remain peaceful and will be a powerful symbol of the frustration, betrayal and anger felt amongst students against the ideological cuts being made against higher education.

Tom Delamere, the President of Newcastle Students Union offered support to all students taking action against fee increases and cuts to the higher education budget in line with his and the Student Unions commitment to tackling this issue saying that the “Newcastle University Students’ Union … completely support [the] occupation in the spirit of the protest against the cuts to higher education”.

Don't make history history


Written by Simon Childs, one of the occupiers in a personal capacity. The opinion expressed do not necessarily reflect those of the occupiers as a group.

If there’s one thing the process of occupation has done for me personally, it has been to reinforce my love for my subjects – history and politics – just at the time when they’re under threat. These subjects are so intertwined that it seems pointless to talk of them as separate – for this article I’ll address them as ‘history’, in that everything that happened since I finished typing this sentence is history, and politics happens in a historical context.

As one of my history lecturers said today, we are facing more than just some cuts to our education and a rise in tuition fees, terrible though those are. As historians (and the same goes for politics students, sociologists, artists, musicians, geographers, etc etc. ad nauseam), we are facing a complete dismantling of our subject in this country.

So, how can history help decide what to do about it? Well, in the process of this occupation alone we’ve been inspired the occupations that happened in Paris universities in 1968. History tells us that people power can work. I’ve heard so many people invoke the poll tax riots – they’re talking about history. It can also warn us of past mistakes and tell us what not to do.

In a wider sense, for me, history gives a sense of perspective. It allows me to realise that these cuts are not inevitable – throughout the history of humanity, societies have organised themselves in thousands of different ways. There is nothing inevitable about these cuts, or about anything. Life is what we make of it. Society is what we make of it. The limit is our collective imagination.

When Peter Tatchell said, “All human progress is the result of far-sighted people challenging orthodoxy, tradition and powerful, vested interests,” it’s an understanding of history that gives him that insight. And that insight allows him to urge us; “Don't accept the world as it is. Dream about what the world could be - then help make it happen. In whatever field of endeavour you work, be a change-maker for the upliftment of humanity."

I don’t care what Lord Browne, the former head of BP, thinks about history. I don’t care that he doesn’t think it’s an economic priority. History is awesome. Don’t make it a thing of the past.

Message of Support from Lee Hall.

A message of support from Lee Hall, best know for his screenplay Billy Elliot.


As someone who received an honorary doctorate from the University last year I just want to pledge my support for your demonstration. The proposals you are protesting against are an assault on everything that Education should stand for.  You are completely right to contest both the fees and the catastrophic cuts to teaching. To put education in the hands of an unregulated free market just seems crazy when unregulated free markets have failed so catastrophically. It also means provision of education will be dictated, by definition, by the ignorant (ie. those without it) rather than those with the very knowledge and learning with which to impart.

Do not accept the platitudes about the economy, do not feel intimidated. You speak for millions of people who's lives will be affected by these proposals.

I agree with Noam Chomsky this is barely concealed Class War and it is imperative for us all to resist it and fight back. You are proudly setting an example for us all.

I absolutely send you my best wishes and support.

Lee Hall
Playwright

Northumbrian Support from Adam White

Having just received a phone call from Northumbria University's SU President, Adam White, I'm pleased to announce he has pledged his (and the student union's) support for our occupation.

He is involved in efforts to publicise the anti-cuts demonstrations, and will provide several stewards for tomorrow's march. These will be recognisable by their Northumbria SU hoodies.

He also denounced the previous treatment of the Newcastle Free Education Network, claiming Northumbria SU will endeavour to support the occupation as long as it remains peaceful.

He did not object to the idea of similar action being taken at Northumbria.

This is a huge boost for the Northumbria University students here, who have so far had little contact with their University.

Northumbria is one of the largest universities in the UK, with over 25,000 students.

Today's Events

Hey Guys and Girls,

Here is the list of today's events. Everyone is welcome, it promises to be a great night!

            2pm til 4 > Geography lecture on youth identity and political action w. Peter Hopkins
            4pm til 5 > Alternative communities in the 21st Century w. Helen Jarvis
            5pm til 7 > Alternative Lectures
            7pm til 8 > Fight Racism Fight Imperialism
            8pm til 9 > General Meeting
            9pm onwards > Protest Noise Jam Session

So come on down to the Fine Arts Building and join in the protest.

Newcastle Occupation

Update on Discussion with the University

During a brief meeting this morning the students in occupation made it known to the University Registrar, John Hogan, that as of now we are only prepared to talk to the Vice Chancellor Chris Brink.

On several occasions the Registrar has made it clear that he is willing to arrange "talks about talks" and that he has "no authority on this issue" and this was re-iterated this morning in his visit to our space.

Given the previous experience that some members of the occupation have of working within the University bureaucracy of Council, Senate and Executive Board we are maintaining our position of wanting to negotiate directly with the Vice Chancellor and that our next meaningful discussions with the University should be with him.

We would like to make it clear that the University has yet to offer meaningful negotiations on our demands or even engage with them explicitly. As such any such suggestion made by the University to the contrary is entirely false.

In addition to this, following a telephone discussion with the Newcastle Students Union President Tom Delamere this morning we are pleased to announce that he has accepted an invitation to come and talk to us this afternoon.

PRESS RELEASE - Day 5

Newcastle University occupation has seen its fifth peaceful day. Northumbria University and local sixth form students join students of Newcastle University for an online lecture with David Wearing followed by a question and answer session.

The statement made today by the NUS president, Aaron Porter has been welcomed by members of the occupation. We are glad that the NUS have begun to listen to the voice and opinions of students from all around the country. The Newcastle Occupation urges Aaron Porter to visit all occupations around the country in solidarity.

Again 6th formers joined the occupation to discuss and debate the Second Day of Action on Tuesday. A plan of action has been agreed for the day that will ensure a peaceful protest and safety for all. We have contact the police about the plans for the protest.

We are very pleased to be able to give 6th formers and FE college students a welcoming forum for them to express their ideas, opinions and plans for the future of the anti-cuts movement.

We are overwhelmed with the level of support that we are receiving including a personal message from Noam Chomsky. Lecturers, local businesses and members of the public are braving the bad weather to donate to the occupation.

We are preparing to occupy the Fine Arts building indefinitely until our demands are met.

Sunday, 28 November 2010

Noam Chomsky sends message of support

Pleased to learn about what you are doing. The savage cuts, hardly concealed class warfare, are likely to harm Britain for a long time to come. By coincidence, they were announced when I was giving talks in Mexico’s national university, UNAM, which presents a dramatic contrast – in a poor country, not one of the richest ones. Ten years ago the government proposed tuition. There was a student strike that was so successful that the government backed down, and tuition remains free in a university with quite impressive standards, and hundreds of thousands of students. There surely are alternatives.

Best of luck in your important efforts.

Noam Chomsky

6th Form Protest, whatever you think, they will protest.

Another comment piece from one of the occupier, in a personal capacity.


Students are apathetic.
Students are lazy.
Students only want to get drunk.

Three stereotypes, each one as preposterous as the last.

Tonight I sat in a lecture theatre, on a Sunday, in the middle of record November snowfall and for two hours debated the rights and wrongs of 6th Form pupils protesting.

One thing was clear; their voice deserves to be heard. They have the most to lose from the Education cuts.

Most of the current University students will have left before the funding changes take place. All current University students will not be forced to pay the higher tuition fees. The students are here because they believe that education is about so much more than a cost benefit analysis.  

In a cost benefit analysis X benefit is weighed against Y cost. Yet how can you quantify the benefit gained from three years in a place of learning that encourages freedom of expression, allows interaction with the widest scope of people and encourages growth. Tell me the sum of the benefit of a Nurse, who goes on to help other individuals, or a Sociologist who tries to make sense of the way we behave, or the psychologist who looks at how we think?

Education is not a zero sum game. It does not fit into such an equation, what people learn from university enriches them far beyond the amount of money that they earn in a life time, and it enriches our society as a by-product.

So the University students protest because the world that they have been able to experience at University is to be taken away from those that come after; the 6th Form students because those that benefited from Free Education do not feel that they deserve it. They feel like the promise of a future has been ripped from their grasp, and given to a banker, to ensure his bonus. They are angry, they should be, so they deserve the right to protest.

Their schools have denied them this right, threatening detention, exclusion, locking the school gates and placing the fear of expulsion into the minds of the pupils trying to organise a fight back.

So we as occupying students have given them a space to organise, plan and ask questions. They have blossomed in the freedom, and have come out with some brilliant ideas and Tuesday’s demonstrations in Newcastle are going to be the most well organised, biggest, boldest 6th Form led protest in the history of Newcastle, if not the United Kingdom.

Yet tonight in our general meeting, debate raged. The reasoning was simple, from the outset we said we would not lead the 6th Form pupils, they must be autonomous, we could not be seen to be coercing them into action that they would not do themselves. Instead we nearly made the opposite mistake, embolden by their youthful exuberance and their belief that after Wednesday they could do anything, we nearly made a fatal mistake, and didn’t use our own judgement to guide them, so scared were we of being seen to lead them.

It would be letting them down it was said, if we didn’t follow through with what they had said that they wanted to happen. It could be done, they would be free to make the decision to join in, they would make the choice it would be what they want. We would be providing what we set out to achieve when we met with 6th Form students, giving them the tools to do what they want.

But then that was never really the point, because this is an occupation not about money but about education, and while caught up in the youthful exuberance we had forgotten our own experiences. These 6th Form pupils had been on one successful peaceful protest, many in the room have been on protests that have not ended so well.

So debate raged on, and the point was found, lost, then found again more times than I care to recount. What came through at the end was our education, our experience of doing this before. So a compromise decision was found with in the group, one that actually suits all parties the best, and most importantly is completely safe.

Left to their own, they 6th Form pupils might well have come up with some great plans, but the most likely scenario would have been another widespread walk out, with no real direction, and when a large angry disaffected group gets together with no clear purpose the end is usually inevitable.

These young adults are vibrant, energetic and insatiable. They would be protesting on Tuesday even if we were not here, but we are trying to give them a way to do that properly, by advising them, engaging with them and letting them come to the right conclusion on their actions. Maybe this kind of response from our Secondary School and Further Education systems might result in a more energetic form of education.

For now I am just happy to be changing stereotypes.

We are not apathetic.
We are not lazy.
And this occupation is dry…. but after tonight we could all do with a drink.

A comment piece by Peter Campbell

Making our new Home feel like Home

It came up in our meeting this morning that our new home was beginning to get a little dirty and less pleasant to live in, the idea of getting a vacuum cleaner was placed to the group. Two hours later, look what we have;



A few hours after that, a nice and clean home and lecture theater for all of us. It's the little things.

We are setting ourselves up to be here for the long term so another addition to the occupation family today has been a water butt. This not only saves us a little time in walking to the toilet to collect water, but in a worst case situation will allow us to have 210 litres of water in our occupied space.


Unfortunately, the only place we could keep the water butt was right in the middle of the window at the front of our occupation, showing everyone who walks past that we ARE here for the long term and will not leave until our demands are met.

Leaning Tower of Pizza


Many, many, many (x30) thanks to the individuals in the English department for their more than generous contribution of pizza, as well as all of the other items they have supplied during the course of our occupation.

THANK YOU

Does this count as a banner drop?


We think it should but it is up to you to decide

Aaron Porter statement at UCL this morning

This morning Aaron Porter visited students at the UCL occupation to talk about their actions and encourage the NUS to back all student protests of this nature. He made the following statements;

  • "I will ensure that the NUS stresses that occupation is an entirely legitimate form of action."
  • "For too long NUS has been too cautious and spineless about being committed to supporting this kind of student activism."
  • "Wherever there is non-violent student supported action, NUS should and NUS will absolutely support that, because what we are facing is utterly disgraceful and I am not going to allow an internal civil war between students as that is what our opponents would want."
  • "I want to apologise for dithering over the last couple of days, this is a perfectly sensible way and indeed one of the key ways in which this campaign is still out there."
  • "NUS is going to be clear and unambiguous in its support for Tuesday's action.""
I think we can all agree that this is a very important development in our campaign and we would like to thank Aaron Porter for making this statement and recognising the need to give NUS backing to the student occupations taking place around the country.

If you would like to watch the video of this statement being made please visit the following link;
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qpRCDmhhgrg

Rally Today 2pm - Support the Occupation!

Come rally outside of our occupied space to give support and solidarity to the occupiers of the Fine Arts Building. TODAY (Sunday 28 November) from 2.00pm.
Fine Arts Building on King's Walk, Newcastle University, NE1 8QB

Lecturer's Statement

University must remain a space for the exchange of ideas. Access to higher education has always been restricted in one way or another by the ruling classes and this is just another brick in that wall, although not as overtly discriminatory (and therefore more insidious) as exclusion on the basis of race or sex. We need to make our voices heard and to join together to be as loud as possible – too many are saying that this is just a way of paying for past excesses. This is a crucial fight that will mark the course of higher education - and of the arts and culture (imagine a world without these!) - in the UK in the twenty-first century.

Dr Stacy Gillis
Lecturer in Modern and Contemporary Literature

Saturday, 27 November 2010

Occupation Day 4

Another brilliant day for Newcastle Occupation. Issues with security are now stable and we have a log book for non-Newcastle students so that they are able to attend events that we are hosting, as long as they don't stay the night.

Northumbria Uni has been contacted to try and drum up some support from staff, the SU and students.

We also had a number of banner drops all around the city, which saw banners at Ricky Road Halls, Northumbria bridge and the Millenium Bridge. Click through for some awesome pics.

Then we facilitated a meeting between local schools, sixth forms and colleges so that we could all plan the Second Day of Action on Tuesday, another peaceful day of protest in Newcastle!

We have also published an email from Newcastle SU President voicing support for the occupation.

During the day we have been speaking to Patrick Kingsley from the Guardian about a telephone interview tomorrow. We are also in the process of arranging some chats over Skype with David Wearing. Manchester Uni and UCL have both given us challenges including making the largest human pyramid and a dance-off.

Mr Scruff will be playing at Digital in Newcastle tomorrow night, so in the spirit of solidarity we have invited him to come over to the Fine Arts building as a Pre Party with plenty of tea and biscuits!!

We finished the night with a small general meeting followed by a workshop on direct action.

Right off to build that human pyramid.

Email from Newcastle University Students Union President


Thank you for your email. As you know, three of the sabbatical officers came across to the meeting last night and fed back to the other sabbs. I was unable to attend the meeting which Lil, Fran and Sarah  went to (as I was sorting out the election results for this week). It is great to hear that things are going so well and as representatives of Newcastle University Students’ Union we completely support your occupation in the spirit of the protest against the cuts to higher education and what sounds like a brilliant atmosphere and a great community feel. The conduct of meetings at the occupation are a credit to all of those involved. As you can appreciate, we cannot encourage students to come down to join you because it is not an event which we have organised, however, should this peaceful and well structured occupation continue, we endeavour to support you as best we can whilst acting within our policies and procedures.

This afternoon we have been in touch with Jeanette Strachen, the Academic Registrar, to look at the heating in the Fine Art building. Lil, Fran and Sarah passed on the message that it was really cold over there! The heating has now been turned up by 2 degrees which we hope will help to keep you all warm over the next few days.

We apologise that you feel let down by the decision which we had to make and can see why it caused such distress due to the late notice. We appreciate that the trust has to be built up again with those students who have been unhappy at our actions, and from this we will endeavour to be very clear about what we can and cannot do to make sure that the kind of decision we had to make on Tuesday are not necessary.  Despite the differences which have occurred over the last few weeks, we would really like to move on and work together when possible to ensure that the government hear our message loud and clear: we will not accept cuts to higher education.

We are pleased to pass on the message that we are organising a silent vigil to be held in the Quad next Tuesday at 5pm. We will supply hundreds of candles so that students can demonstrate to the University and Government how we feel about the cuts to higher education, each light will represent a student opposed to the cuts. We think that this could be a great success and would love all students from both Newcastle and Northumbria Universities to attend with us. If you would like to promote this to any of your members then we would really appreciate it.


All the best,

Tom Delamere and the Sabbatical Officers

Tom Delamere
President of the Students' Union

PRESS RELEASE - Day 4 (Second Day of Action Planning)


The peaceful occupation of the Fine Arts building at Newcastle University is now in its fourth successful day. We are here following a National Day of Action on Wednesday, which saw thousands of students, university and non-university, lecturers and members of the public demonstrating to oppose the devastating cuts to Higher Education and the discontinuation of Education Maintenance Allowance. This was followed by a very well attended teach-in organized by Newcastle Free Education Network.

The continued support from Tyne & Wear Left Unity, the Northern Region UCU, many lecturers and the general public is not only greatly appreciated but is vital to the campaign and our occupation.

Our commitment to education is manifest in our dedication to providing alternative lectures, workshops and discussions in unfilled time in the occupied lecture theatre. These are well attended by a wide variety of people and continue to be popular.

Today we were pleased to hold talks with student representatives of local sixth forms and colleges about the second National Day of Action which is due to be held on Tuesday 30th November. We are currently corresponding with Northumbria Police about this event.

More Mosaic - We've started a trend

Many thanks to SOAS and UCL for their solidarity - http://getheardproject.wordpress.com/
Good luck with your occupations guys :D
Here are some more faces from today

A day out with a Banner

Today we have been out to show different parts of Newcastle a lovely little banner that we have made.

More photos can be seen here.

When the Police come knocking on your door...

    This is a comment piece by one of the Newcastle occupiers, written in a personal capacity.

When in an occupation, three days in, having slept on a bare concrete floor as snow falls outside, one thing more than anything chills your bones.


“Riot Van! Outside!”

People charge around, some fly to the windows, others to the door. It is swiftly makeshiftly bolted with a bicycle lock. You wonder, is this it; have they finally come to pull us out, like they threatened with SOAS, are they going to punch a hole in the wall like in Oxford. Police attempt to push the door open. They seem surprised to find it locked. They call through the crack in the door;

“Is Markus there, we just want to talk.”

Confusion reins, this is not what we were expecting, is this not to be our last stand after all? Markus trots to the door, pears through and has a look.

“It’s alright”, he says “I’ll just have a chat.”

The looks are nervous as he unlocks the door and steps out. It is quickly bolted behind him. As the rest of the sixty strong occupiers strain to hear the conversation through the door the tension grows and grows. The doors creak under the strain. A minute passes, and finally Markus turns round, almost surprised at the attention he is receiving.

“Just give me a sec,” he says to the Police, “I’ll let them know what’s going on.”

“Don’t worry guy’s. It aint about this.”

Because you see this isn’t London, the Police are not the violent thugs who use a bit of broken glass as an excuse to attack school girls and charge crowds with horses. Here the students are not the enemy. In fact the students are the Police’s friend. Why? We are in occupation of a building against the wishes of its owners, we march through the centre of Newcastle over 2000 strong, causing chaos, with no clear direction, marching on the Civic Centre, the Finance Building and for a brief period occupying the Eldon Square Shopping Centre.

If this was London that would be cause for the Riot Police, arrests, court hearings and widespread media condemnation, so what is different in Newcastle? The answer is simple. The Police are not thugs and they recognise that Newcastle students and pupils have a right to protest and we are the only ones who care about our future. Abandoned by our Government we marched on London. Abandoned by our student union for our support of direct action against cuts and fees we were left to fend for ourselves.

Did we wither and die like they hoped? No we stayed strong, we organised and we prepared. For one thing is clear. The students are leading the way, they are the vanguard for a social upheaval not witnessed for a generation. Plus, we were angry, a small group though we were, we realised we were not the only ones. Especially when college and school pupils began to look for support.

They too found themselves isolated and alone. They found a natural ally in the Newcastle Free Education Network. When they tried to organise within their Schools and Colleges they were threatened with exclusion. We offered them nothing but support and a place where they could come and be heard. They have most at stake in this issue and their voice deserves to ring loud and true.

Our Student Union pulled support for their own walk out on Wednesday because we could not give them assurances we would not be violent. This is an outright lie, when assurances where asked for they were given wholeheartedly. We were shocked when support was pulled the night before the event on health and safety grounds. A scandalous hypocrisy as they had promised the Police they would provide stewarding at the event.

So on Wednesday twenty university students were left with the job of containing a 2000 strong protest that we had merely helped get off the ground. We were by no means the sole organisers and can claim no credit for the vast numbers who attended. That credit must go to the hard working 6th Forms intent on defending their education.

But the Police had met with one of our number in a joint meeting with us and the student union, and so looked to us to help with an impossible task, controlling 2000 angry protesters. Yet they did not need ‘controlling’ in the Metropolitan Police sense. Why? Because once allowed the space required of a march of this size, well policed, with clear overspill areas despite the constant spontaneity, the march was entirely peaceful. A point for which the Police commended us on our efforts and we return our gratitude to them.

We arranged a ‘teach-in’ with pre-booked rooms in order to attempt to dissipate the march in a semi orderly fashion. (We underestimated numbers, but coped well.) At the teach in a number of workshops were run, including those on non-violent direct action, in an effort to educate those who had possibly just witnessed their first protest.

At the end of the teach in we democratically voted for continued action and have since occupied the Fine Arts Building of the University, and it was here that I found myself when the Police knocked on our door. Not the Student Union’s door, they had already showed that they can not be trusted. Not the doors of schools and colleges, by not supporting their students they had shown that they were unable to control them. But at the door of sixty occupying students, asking for a Dock Martin wearing, Mohawk sporting Politics student, because he more than anyone in any form of establishment could speak to the will of the students, and he had far more idea of potential plans for the second National Day of Action on Tuesday than any University, Union or School bureaucrat.

The occupation of Newcastle University continues, we are providing workshops and alternative lectures for students, we are completely happy for normal lectures to continue in the lecture theatre that we control, yet management are not. Yet, now we are more than this, we are now a beacon of hope for school and college pupils in the area. We are the people that show them they are not fighting on their own. So they come knocking on our door asking for help.

And so do the Police.
A comment piece by Peter Campbell

Some more photos from the occupation...










A Small Tour Of Our New Home

A selection of pictures from our Facebook page of where we are living and what we are up to, more to follow






Friday, 26 November 2010

Day 3 Evening

Another great day going strong for the Newcastle Occupation.
Deep Breath...


We've had many messages of solidarity from UCL, UCU (who have declared national support for last Wednesday's action), local trade unionists and students, along with donations of much appreciated food and money from Tyne & Wear Left Unity, the Northern Region UCU, assorted lecturers and supporters from the general public. Thanks everyone!


We'd also like to show our continuing support for SOAS who are staying solid despite threat of eviction and new solidarity with Cambridge who are now under occupation!
Also, congratulations to South Bank University who have ended occupation with all demands met today. Woo!We voted today, as have many other occupations, to support the National Campaign Against Fees and Cuts regional demonstration day on the 5th December.  


Management offered us the chance to put the occupation on pause for the weekend and return to start again on Monday morning, which we have declined. :)
We have been able to negotiate access for non-Newcastle University students to the occupied space, which is fantastic and you are all invited and encouraged to come and join the occupation's events this weekend and help organise events for the next Day Of Action on Tuesday. We have a book for signing people in and out - we are co-policing this with security, who remain friendly and cooperative to us and us to them - and the agreement for free access is on the assumption that it is members of Newcastle University only that 'hold the fort' by sleeping over. There are still substantial numbers willing to sleep over (minimum being 25-30 in the occupation at all times, swelling to 70-80 for events etc). There's a meeting of local school students at 13.30 tomorrow in the occupied space to start getting things rolling.
As far as tonight goes, the art students are holding their postcard auction upstairs from us so we're keeping it down a bit with crafts workshops as well as talks on alternative housing and non-violent direct action. We had a fantastic lecture courtesy of Barry Gills (Head of UCU and Politics lecturer at Newcastle University) earlier and many more lined up by different lecturers from across the campus.
Media-wise, we've been contacted by the Guardian who want to want to run a feature on us so we're all looking forward to their visit on Sunday!
Right, think that's all, thanks again to everyone who have made donations and shown their support for the occupation and the campaign against education cuts.
Solidarity and strength to all other occupiers and protesters across the country.  

Day 3 in Occupation - lots of plans, come and join in!

Right now, we're all chilling out, eating lunch, celebrating news of occupation victory from London South Bank University!

Some plans for this afternoon include:

2pm - Drumming Workshop  //  Non-violent direct action workshop.

4pm - Discussion on Housing Cooperatives.

5pm - General Meeting -  how's the occupation going, future plans, this weekend etc.

5:30/6pm - Alternative Lectures - all lecturers are especially welcome!

7:30 onwards an evening programme of entertainment and intellectual nourishment and craft workshop.

Thursday, 25 November 2010

We Are Your Occupiers

Day Two Press Release

This message was relayed to the press on the 25th November 2010:

The Newcastle University Occupation continued peacefully for its second day in the Fine Art building. The numbers of occupants swelled to over seventy. Morale is high as occupiers enjoyed an evening of discussions, live music, juggling and pizza and other food donated by local groups (including the UCU, Left Unity and the Socialist Workers' Party).

Throughout the day occupiers encouraged other students to join them in their action, running rallies, making banners and established meaningful contact with other occupations nationwide. This provided a strong sense of solidarity throughout the group and has drawn support nationally and internationally with blog comments and emails from Turkey, Germany and the Philippines amongst the many received. Lectures were allowed to continue in the occupied teaching area, highlighting the occupation's goal to defend education, not disrupt it. The group is being run entirely democratically from within, with separate chairs for every discussion and votes taken on every point of action.

The negotiation process with University Management is ongoing - the group continues to request that its demands of the University be met and has reiterated its desire to occupy until that time.

With further rallies and creative protest actions planned for the coming days, we encourage all media to join us in the Fine Art building at Newcastle University where we will be available and willing to discuss the merits of positive protest and the goals of our campaign.

Newcastle University Occupiers

We continue to welcome any messages of solidarity or donations and many thanks to those that have already contributed.

Update from second night.

The Newcastle occupation has taken on a bit of carnival atmosphere tonight, with students holding impromptu acoustic sessions, juggling and generally enjoying the mood of rebellion.

Earlier problems with security have died down as the night settles in. Security had attempted to prevent people joining the occupation and this had created some friction between the groups. Fortunately this tension has passed and people are once again able to join the occupation. This has lighten the mood greatly, and the addition of a local band coming down in solidarity to play cheered us greatly.

Messages of solidarity are always welcome. We won't win this on our own.

Solidarity with all other occupying students.

Newcastle Occupation

More messages of support...

Here's a selection of messages of solidarity that we've been getting on our email.
Thank you, please keep them coming in, they make all the difference! comment here or email us: ncluniocc@gmail.com
We've also heard that the UCU National Conference has passed a motion in full support of students occupying their universities against cuts. This is fantastic news and a real boost for all our actions!

Some messages:

"...I would just like to send a message of support and thanks to those in occupation of the University. I attended the walkout and today's demonstration and it is fantastic to know that the passion of collective students can, and hopefully will, make a difference to the proposed cuts to our department. As a Literature student I would hope that fellow students and lecturers alike support our action against the proposed cuts which directly affect us, and stand in solidarity with those in occupation.

Their resistance is not going unnoticed, and I will continue to support their, indeed, our actions. Despite the fact our union refused to support peaceful protests yesterday due to 'health and safety reasons', it was fantastic to see so many people fighting for our rights to education and committed to the cause, regardless.

Again, support and solidarity to those occupying Newcastle University, and occupations across the country,"


 
Rosie Bailey
Second Year, Literature.

Dear Newcastle University Occupiers of the Fine Art building,
A quick message in support of your actions today.  I'm away on university business today and tomorrow, so won't be able to deliver this in person (or indeed blankets, food, etc.), but wanted to let you know that I think what you're doing, in calling attention to the issue of higher education funding changes and the widespread effects that it will have, is admirable.  I hope you can keep it peaceful.  I know there are a number of staff and students complaining about the possible disruption that your actions are causing, but from my point of view I consider your actions in occupying the building to sit within a wider (and global) tradition of public protest.  I'm also aware, like many of my staff colleagues, that I may not have attended university had I faced the prospect of fees and debt as you all do now and as my children will in the future.  I'm also extremely concerned about the consequences of the new fees regime for the principle of higher education as a public good and public benefit.  I could go on...
If there are any Stage 2 Geographers amongst you who will be missing (or will have missed) their GEO2043 Key Methods classroom practical tomorrow (or today), tell them to get in touch with me and I'll mark this as a notified absence (I'm module leader).  We won't be able to grant extensions because of this, but I will be in my office on Monday 29th November 2-5pm if anyone needs to consult about any work they might have missed this week because of the protest activities.
Kind regards and in solidarity,

Dr Rachel Woodward
School of Geography Politics and Sociology


Brilliant demands guys. Keep it up.
Nathaneal

Well done and best of luck.. Infinite kudos to all of you.
Jack

Keep up the absolutely excellent work you totally awesome bunch of people. Am spreading the word and will join you when I can!! It's about bloody time someone stood up for themselves in terms of these ridiculous cuts!!
Katie Cooper
Ph.D. Candidate

Good luck! You have my full support. Wish I could be there.
Deborah

This evening's events in the Occupation...

...come and join in! Bring your student/staff I.D. in order to get in. Call 07941371477 if you've got any problems.

5 o' clock start - come in, see the space, get settled, get comfy!

5:30pm - BIG meeting in the Lecture Theatre (the heating's being fixed as we speak!)on why we're here, what we plan to do in the occupation tomorrow and the weekend, plans for the National Day of Action next Tuesday.

7.30pm - 8.30pm - Free time: break off workshops/talks/chilling out.

9.00pm - HOT food, probably pizza!

9:30pm onwards - gigs, music, food, chatting, film showing, quiet space, sleep...

ALL WELCOME! Bring your student/staff identification in order to get in.

We've Hit The Beeb!

Coverage of our action is growing - we've had interviews with radio stations and TV stations, and as you can see, we're front page (North-East) news:

BBC Article

Keep sending your messages of support, we'll let you know developments as and when they're decided.

Rally Called For 12pm TODAY (Thursday 25/11/10) + update

RALLY TODAY AT MIDDAY
The students in occupation at Newcastle University have called for a solidarity protest today (Thursday) at 12:00 outside the Fine Art building, the building under occupation. We would like to reiterate the peaceful nature of our protest and ask for people to come, join in, make some noise outside, show your support!

The University are trying to move lectures from 11am today outside of our building, but we've heard that at least one lecturer (1pm) wants to go ahead in the occupied space, in support of our occupation. We welcome this and again reiterate that we do not want to disrupt teaching and learning! Todays 9am lecture has begun as planned and the lecturer for this lecture gave his full support for the occupation. Great

We call for students, staff, lectures and anyone on their lunch break from work to join us in solidarity for our action and join the rally today at MIDDAY!

We are also planning a whole evening of events including discussions, speakers, music, banner making, (essay writing), etc. We've also got some food, so join us for dinner at around 8! Bring contributions if you can!

FOOTAGE FROM YESTERDAY

Wednesday, 24 November 2010

Messages of Support

We're glad to see this blog become a forum for debate and support - keep your messages coming. Here are some of the comments we've received by email and on our Facebook page (that can be accessed on the right):

- Good luck & best wishes for the occupation!


- Solidarity from the outside. Should be back in tomorrow when the essay is done ;)


- Solidarity! So sorry i had to leave, was too ill to do anything useful though. You have my complete support, if there's anything i can do just let me know.


- Greetings from the Netherlands. Fight the power.


- Hi, I am a PhD student in sociology. Just wanted to say well done and keep up the good work. I'm was working today so only made a tiny bit of the sit in, I came along on my lunch break.


I spoke to a couple of fifteen year old school kids at work today (I work in a gadget shop) who told me how they had walked out of school during their lunch break. They face being barred from going to their prom but left anyway (apparently their teachers thought the protest didn't concern them) . It's them who the rise in fees will hurt, I told them they should be proud of themselves.


Best of luck.


If you're in the area it's not too late to join us - just come to the Fine Arts building and ask to be let in. Otherwise, keep the messages of support coming in, they mean a lot to all of us.